Kenya Airways and South African Airways have finally announced the formation of the much-touted Pan-African Airline Group next year after the plan was first mooted three years ago.
The national carrier says the two airlines are currently implementing phase two of the partnership framework, an important milestone that will lead to the formation of the new group.
The second phase of implementation involves putting modalities in place for a joint venture between the two carriers and formalisation of the partnership, which will lead to the actualisation of merging their operations.
The airline further says that both carriers are at the moment conducting restructuring, an exercise they say will be completed by 2024. The ongoing restructuring includes fleet rationalisation, which comprises talks on a lease agreement with the lessors.
“Both airlines are finalising their restructuring plans which should be completed by 2024. The restructuring is an important process which once finalised will lead to the formation of the Pan-African Airline Group in 2024,” said KQ in an email.
There was no clear timeline on when the new airline would be formed when an intention of forming a Pan-African group was first mooted. KQ and SAA first signed a strategic partnership framework in South Africa in November 2021 which was witnessed by President Cyril Ramaphosa and former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The two carriers say the partnership will increase connectivity through passenger traffic and cargo and offer passengers affordable fares and more options on flying routes. Both carriers are grappling with financial challenges with SAA having downscaled significantly its fleet since it resumed flying in September 2021, after halting its operations for a year in 2020.
The South African flag carrier is currently operating a reduced fleet of six aircraft. It previously served over 34 international destinations from its hub at OR Tambo International Airport. However, the carrier is starting long-haul flights at the end of this month to selected destinations in South America and Australia.
SAA will use its leased Airbus A330-300 aircraft for long-haul flights from São Paulo Guarulhos International (GRU) to Perth International Airport (PER) by the end of March 2023.
Kenya Airways, which will be releasing its financial results on Monday, has already announced that the earnings for 2022 will decline by at least 25 percent. The new partnership will come at a time when the national carrier has been granted rights to operate cargo from Johannesburg to Lusaka, Maputo, Harare, Lilongwe and Dar-es-Salaam.
The move means that KQ no longer has to fly back to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as has been the case, before in order to ferry the cargo to these countries. Previously, all traffic departing from Johannesburg had to pass through its Nairobi hub.